Harden, Antetokounmpo, George named finalists for NBA MVP award

Yahoo Sports Contributor
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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/5185/" data-ylk="slk:Giannis Antetokounmpo">Giannis Antetokounmpo</a> and James Harden, along with <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4725/" data-ylk="slk:Paul George">Paul George</a>, are finalists for the NBA's coveted MVP award. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden, along with Paul George, are finalists for the NBA's coveted MVP award. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

For the second straight season, James Harden is on the cusp of winning the NBA’s top award.

Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George were named the three finalists for the NBA’s MVP award, the league announced on Friday night.

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Harden, who won the award last year for the first time, had a record-setting season this year while leading the Rockets to the Western Conference semifinals. The 29-year-old averaged a career-high 36.1 points, 7.5 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game this season, and had a streak of 32 games where he scored at least 30 points.

Antetokounmpo had a dominant season, too, leading the Milwaukee Bucks to the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The 24-year-old averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists this year, all three of which were career highs for the three-time All-Star.

While George’s game may have taken a back seat to the first two at times, it was nothing short of impressive. George averaged a career-high 28 points and 8.2 rebounds for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and was named to his sixth All-Star game in seven years.

The league will announce the MVP, along with the rest of its awards, at its annual awards show on June 24th in Los Angeles.

Coach of the Year finalists

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone and Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers were named finalists for the league’s Coach of the Year award.

Budenholzer, in just his first year with the Bucks, led them to a 60-22 record and the Eastern Conference finals, somewhere Milwaukee hasn’t been since the 2000-01 season.

Malone led the Nuggets to a 54-28 record this season, his fourth with the team, and picked up the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs — though they fell to the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round. Rivers led the Clippers to the playoffs this season with a 48-34 record, and they fell to the Golden State Warriors in the first round.

Defensive Player of the Year finalists

Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert joins Antetokounmpo and George as finalists for the Defensive Player of the Year award.

Antetokounmpo was a force on both ends of the floor for Milwaukee this season, making the Bucks the top-ranked defensive team in the league this season. The Jazz and Thunder weren’t far behind, either, coming in just 0.3 and 1.5 points behind Milwaukee, respectively.

Most Improved Player finalists

Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, Brooklyn Nets gaurd D’Angelo Russell and Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox were named finalists for the Most Improved Player award.

Siakam averaged 16.9 points for the Raptors this season — more than double his scoring from last season — while helping them reach the Eastern Conference Finals. Russell led the Nets to the playoffs while averaging 21.1 points and seven assists per game, and Fox put up 17.3 points and 7.3 assists per game in Sacramento.

Sixth Man Award finalists

Clippers center Montrezl Harrell, Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis and Clippers guard Lou Williams were named finalists for the Sixth Man award.

Both Harrell and Williams shined off the bench in Los Angeles this season. Harrell averaged 16.6 points and 6.5 rebounds in more than 26 minutes per game, while Williams averaged 20 points and 5.4 assists in 26.6 minutes per game. Sabonis averaged a near-double-double with 14.1 points and 9.3 rebounds while playing almost 25 minutes per contest.

Rookie of the Year finalists

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young and Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton are finalists for the Rookie of the Year award.

Doncic averaged 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and six assists with the Mavericks this season, just slightly better than Young’s 19.1 points, 8.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game with the Hawks. Ayton dominated inside for the Suns all year, averaging a double-double with 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds. All three of their teams, however, finished toward the bottom of the league.

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